Rookie QB Deshaun Watson was one of the highlights of the league this season. His play was entertaining, his personality was winning over fans, and his his statistics were record setting:
The response around the league was one of endless disappointment for what could have been for the rookie. Immediately after Watson was declared out for the season, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien declared that:
We’re not going to give in to what’s out there that the demise of the Houston Texans is upon us. I mean, that’s ridiculous.
Hardly a surprising comment given the amount of negativity that hit social media when news of Watson's injury broke. Let's be honest here, life goes on and in the NFL everybody involved is very clear on the stance that playing football involves a 'next man up' mentality that regardless of who goes down, you have got to be able to rely on the back-up.
Safe hands to fall back on?
Fast forward to Week 9, and with a potential NFL MVP candidate who had been setting records on his way to becoming the franchise QB the franchise so desperately needed, Tom Savage's career in Houston looked all but done.
The former Pitt star who was seemingly relegated to permanent back-up is, on paper at least, a decent QB2. He knows the system well, has a strong arm, and has experience winning games behind center for the Texans. But, coach O'Brien's willingness to bench him so soon this year rang alarm bells that perhaps he wasn't as good as both he and his receiving corps had been building him up to be.
"I played like crap"
After their 14-20 home loss to divisional rivals Indianapolis, Savage's post-game comments summed up his performance perfectly:
It's probably the most frustrating game of my life.
It's just one of those deals that I just wasn't making the throws and guys were open. I'm not going to give you the politically correct answer and say like blah blah blah we can get better. No, I have to make the throws. I played like crap. That's what it is.
In the end, he completed just 19 of 44 attempts for 219 yards and his first NFL passing TD. Not the worst stats this league has seen, but to put into perspective how badly his game was going before a late 'comeback' of sorts, at one point he had completed just nine of 27, for 96 yards and a 33.3 passer rating.
And his poor performance goes far beyond the numbers. To say he looked rusty would be an understatement. He frequently overthrew, took far too long in the pocket leaving the Colts secondary time to cover his receivers and the front seven to pressure him into a panic throw, struggled to read the development of the plays, and his accuracy was poor.
Well, rumors have been circling from the second Watson was seemingly out for the season, that former 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick would be a better fit for the Texans than Tom Savage. This makes sense, given the success they have had this season thanks to Watson's rushing abilities. And coach O'Brien's comments at yesterday's press conference show that it has at least crossed his mind:
Yeah. I mean, everybody gets discussed. Is that a problem? Isn’t that the way most teams do it? People seem shocked by that.
However, is it realistic? Well, given that Texans owner Bob McNair is being deposed as part of Kaepernick's collusion case against NFL owners - it's unlikely.
Another option could be Robert Griffin III - But after his failure to impress and prove his ability to stay fit while in Cleveland last season, his NFL career is all but over.
Otherwise, thanks to a severe lack in QB quality currently available, their options are thin on the ground. Having signed veteran TJ Yates for a third time, and Josh Johnson to back up Savage - they do have options in house. At this point, their best bet would be to stick with Savage for next week's game against the Rams. But, should Houston be struggling against an LA side which is arguably the best in the NFL right now, perhaps putting the relatively proven backup Yates in to get reacquainted with the system and see if he offers more in terms of basic accuracy and timing than Savage has so far, may not be a bad idea.
However, on the surface at least Yates himself doesn't agree that he should be given the opportunity at the moment:
No, Tom's the guy right now.
He's a heck of a quarterback. Obviously, it's going to take some time before he's going to get back in a rhythm. You could see that towards the end of the game. It took a little while. He's a heck of a player. He can really throw the ball.
And for anybody thinking that perhaps accepting this as a wasted year and focusing on regrouping and getting everybody healthy for next season is the way to go - think again. The Texans don't currently have a first or second round draft pick next year, meaning a poor record in 2017 would have no real effect on the talent they could acquire this offseason.
Ultimately though, their best option is clear; ignore the politics and sign Kaepernick, returning to the dual-threat model that has proven so valuable to this Texans offense this year.
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